In January, unusually cold weather caused water temperatures to plummet along coastal South Carolina and Georgia. The sustained cold water temperatures resulted in fish kills and die offs of white shrimp, a valuable commercial fishery in South Carolina and Georgia.
According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), shortly after the first week in January SCDNR staff and members of the public began reporting dead fish and shrimp along the shores of tidal marshes and saltwater impoundments.
As a result, the agency acted to protect surviving white shrimp by closing the trawling season in state waters on January 10, 2018 and requested NOAA Fisheries do the same in adjacent federal waters.
Shortly afterward, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR) closed state waters to trawling on January 15, 2018 and also requested a federal closure.
According to GA DNR, observations of recent water temperatures and catches suggest one of the worse freeze kills in the 41 years it has been conducting monitoring surveys, with a 96.1 % reduction in white shrimp abundance from December 2017 to January 2018.
White shrimp is the most valuable commercial fishery in Georgia. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) manages shrimp in federal waters and has set criteria allowing the closure of adjacent federal waters at the state’s request when cold weather threatens overwintering white shrimp.
Federal waters were closed to shrimp trawling off the South Carolina coast on January 10th and off the Georgia coast on January 24th.
source: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council